The state needs a strong policy concerning the future use of water resources, particularly since a federal appeals court has ruled metro Atlanta can legally take water from Lake Lanier rather than allowing more to flow into rivers and streams downstream, the groups said.
“Alabama is vulnerable right now because it does not have a statewide water plan and it can hurt us in water negotiations in the future,” said Keith Johnston, managing attorney at the Birmingham office of the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Alabama Rivers Alliance executive director Cindy Lowry said Alabama is one of the only states in the South that does not have a statewide water resources management plan. Legislators voted in the 2011 session to re-form a committee to develop such a plan.
Lowry said the need for a plan became obvious during a major drought in 2007 and 2008 when the drinking water supply was threatened to cities across the state and low water levels stopped traffic on some state rivers. During that drought, the east Alabama city of Alexander City had to use barges to float water pumps into the middle of nearby Lake Martin when low water levels threatened the city’s drinking water supply.
A shortage of rain earlier this summer has refreshed memories of that drought, Lowry said.
“Alabama needs to take action before the next bad drought,” Lowry said.
The Legislature has appointed new members to a committee that was formed during that 2007-2008 drought to devise a water plan.
Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) whose district includes three rivers that have been at the heart of the “waterwars” debate among Alabama, Georgia and Florida, said he agrees that coming up with a use plan
is “something that definitely needs to be done.”